GMA Exclusive: Obama Talks With Sawyer About Campaigning and Family

Obama gives his first sit-down interview with Diane Sawyer since winning Iowa.

Jan. 7, 2008 — -- Barack Obama dismissed the latest attacks on his record by Hillary Clinton as distortions of his record and said his rival's tactics as she falls behind in the polls have been "sort of depressing lately."

Obama, who has surged into a double-digit lead in New Hampshire on the eve of that state's primary, rebutted several of Clinton's latest accusations in an interview with "Good Morning America's" Diane Sawyer.

Clinton has tried to deny that Obama is the agent of change he proclaims to be by citing what she says are inconsistent stands by the Illinois senator. One of Clinton's accusations: "Saying that you are against the war in Iraq but then voting for $300 billion to fund it — that's not change."

Confronted with her quote, Obama said, "On the war, I was against the war in 2002. The notion that [New York] Sen. Clinton would use that as a way of suggesting that I wasn't against the war from the start, I think is … the classic kind of politics."

Other issues Clinton says are contradictions by Obama include whether or not he supported the Patriot Act and whether he violated his promise to not take money from lobbyists, although his New Hampshire campaign chairman is a pharmaceutical lobbyist.

"What she was implying was that I'd somehow broken my pledge to not accept money from federal registered lobbyists — which I don't. This guy lobbies in Concord [N.H.] He has nothing to do with the federal government," Obama said.

The Democratic front-runner shrugged off the attacks from the Clinton campaign as blatant distortions of his record.

"The manner in which they've been running their campaign is sort of depressing lately," Obama said.

Clinton laughed when told that Obama called her campaign tactics depressing.

"I think that is the kind of characterization made by candidates who are trying to avoid scrutiny of their own records. 'Let's talk about somebody else instead of answer questions about what I have or haven't done,'" she told "GMA."

Clinton, talking with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, suggested Obama should be held to the same standard of scrutiny that has applied to her.

"I have a great deal of respect for Sen. Obama. He's a very talented politician, but if he's going to be competing for president and especially to get the Democratic nomination and go up against whomever the Republicans... then I think it is really time to compare and contrast him the way I've been scrutinized all this year," she said.

Clinton went back to her allegation about Obama's relationship to lobbyists.

"When you rail against lobbyists as he has and talk about how you're a different kind of politician and then have a lobbyist run your campaign in New Hampshire," she said without finishing the sentence.

The tension between the two leading Democratic candidates seemed to surface during the Democratic debate Saturday night when the issue of Clinton's likability arose. Polled Iowans said they found Obama more likeable than Clinton.

Clinton joked that it hurt her feelings and Obama promptly responded with "you're likeable enough, Hillary."

Obama said the response wasn't intended to be snarky.

"I think folks are parsing things too much there. What I should have said — the way I suppose I should have phrased it is 'I think you are plenty likeable.' I was trying to make a gesture of graciousness that apparently has somehow been perceived differently," Obama said.

One person who wasn't watching Saturday's showdown on ABC was Obama's wife, Michelle.

"She gave me the thumbs up and she's a tough critic. But I'll be honest with you. She wasn't watching. She gets too nervous," Obama said. "She comes off as that tough gal, but she gets very tense, so she watches HDTV or the Food Channel. And after it's over she calls other people to find out how it went."

And one woman who isn't expected to be hitting the campaign trail with him again is Oprah Winfrey, whom Obama has kept in contact with by e-mail.

"I just gave her glowing reviews. Then she wrote back and said, 'I had a wonderful time, but it's more grueling than it looks,'" Obama said. "I don't think she's going to be hitting the campaign trail again real soon."

Obama said that just before the Iowa caucuses his young daughter Meila wanted to make sure her father was OK.

"My 9-year-old, who is very wise and very sensitive, right before the caucus was about to start she said, 'Daddy I have a very serious question.' I said, 'OK. What is it sweetie?' She said, 'Will you be really sad if you don't win? 'I said, 'No sweetie. I think I've done a good job and you know we'll see how it turns out.' She said that's good [because] I wouldn't want you to feel real sad."

Daughters Meila and 5-year-old Sasha have missed most of the campaign and remain in school in Chicago.

Obama said he sees his quest for the White House as something bigger than him.

"There's an aspect of politics that is about me, right? And then there's an aspect of politics that is larger than me. And there you have to have a certain amount of megalomania to think that you should be president of the United States. But I think you have to cross a certain threshold when you say, 'This is not about my ambition. It's about something bigger,'" Obama said.